The Georgian Bluffs – Chatsworth Biodigester

Biodigester photo E. Galloway

Introduction

In 2009 the Townships of Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth announced their plans to build a biodigester with the purpose of processing septic waste, producing electricity as part of the project and at the same time ending the questionable practice of spreading untreated septic waste on farmland. The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) had promised to do their part by providing legislation eliminating spreading of waste on farmland, but this legislation was never enacted. As a result the biodigester has been operating with too little septic input. For that reason, as well as various other unfortunate situations, the biodigester – although an excellent idea by itself – has been running at a loss. The townships are attempting to improve the financial situation somewhat by enacting a by-law that would compel residents to have their septic haulers take your septic waste to the bio-digester, at extra cost to the residents.

The following article, written by Edith Galloway, IVDAARA President, provides an overview of the history of the project as well as a discussion of various aspects of this project. This report also received input from residents of Georgian Bluffs living in the vicinity of the biodigester. Thank you to the Johnson, Lemmen and Taylor families. In addition, thank you to Chatsworth resident Mr. Falk who provided analytical research and public awareness through letters to the Owen Sound SUn Times.

Please note that the next meeting of the Biodigester Joint Board (BJB) was expected to take place on Friday, November 22, but this date has been canceled. We will post new information here when it becomes available.

The Biodigester Project: The Financial Footprint

The Georgian Bluffs/Chatsworth Joint Biodigester project has ignored the taxpayers’ septic waste for the past three years. It opted instead to process waste from nearby municipalities, local industries and organics from a private company north of Toronto. Why is it now that our septage demands the attention of a township by-law, drawn up by a Kitchener-Waterloo law firm, which will legislate that our waste must be hauled to the biodigester with a tipping fee added to the pumping charge?
In 2001, the Ontario government announced legislation would phase out the spreading of septage and sewage sludge within five years. No legislation or regulations were forthcoming.

By 2007 it was clear that there would be no such legislation in Ontario. Instead, the direction taken by the province on this issue was to improve treatment, testing, classification of waste, approvals and monitoring so that the widespread practice of spreading bio-solids on agricultural fields could be continued.

This means that by the time Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth commissioned the design of the biodigester in 2009, legislation to stop human septic waste being spread on agricultural fields was long gone from the horizon.

Timeline

Press Release Owen Sound Sun Times: October 1, 2009

A public meeting, with a question and answer session, is planned for 7 p.m. at the Keady Community Centre.
Plans will be unveiled tonight (October 1, 2009) for a $2.5-million facility capable of turning sewage, animal manure, slaughterhouse waste and kitchen scraps into useable methane gas.
A bio-energy power facility, a joint venture of Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth, is expected to be operational by next summer. The facility, a first of its kind in Ontario, is an environmentally friendly way to produce electricity and dispose of septic waste once the province enacts a ban on spreading it on agricultural fields.
The generator, powered by methane gas, will be hooked up to a Hydro One station to add electricity to the power grid. The power will generate enough revenue to cover the local share of the facility’s cost within two years.
Both Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth will pay about $440,000 toward the project, with the federal and provincial governments kicking in $880,000 apiece through the Building Canada infrastructure fund.

Press Release Owen Sound Sun Times: November 5, 2010

The first shipments of septic tank sludge are being loaded into a new $3.8-million biodigester.
The organics-to-energy facility was originally intended to be solution to septic sludge disposal, which the province planned to ban from being spread on agricultural fields. Municipal officials now plan to quickly expand the list of acceptable waste to ensure a reliable supply of raw material. Fat, oil and grease from restaurants, leftovers from slaughterhouses and vegetable and fruit scraps from kitchens are expected to be added to the list.
Georgian Bluffs council authorized the township to take out a $1.2-million, 15-year debenture from the Bank of Montreal to pay for its share of the project’s cost. Chatsworth also secured a $1.2 million loan.
Revenue from the bio digester, expected to be at least $322,000 a year, will be used to pay back the debenture, township officials say. The municipalities expect to recoup their costs within 10 years.

 

2010, August 10: Biodigester Steering Committee Minutes

The press release of November 5, 2010 seemed to imply septic tank sludge from Georgian Bluffs residential septic tanks was being loaded into the biodigester. However, the minutes of that initial meeting indicate that a municipality in a nearby county paid $5 per cubic metre for disposal of sludge but the project (Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth) paid the trucking cost of $12.40 per cubic metre.

2011, July 22: Biodigester Steering Committee Minutes

MOE Septage Disposal Task Force meeting on June 28, 2011, was set up to look into untreated septage being spread on land. The Ministry of the Environment, it was reported, would not be banning the spreading of septage on fields as a provincial mandate. They will be looking to municipalities to come up with a plan of their own which will be supported by the province.

It is important to note, that although MOE ten years earlier discussed banning the spreading of septage on fields, it opted to develop stronger rules. As of November 2013, septic sludge from residential septic systems in Georgian Bluffs, Chatsworth and elsewhere in the province continues to be spread by haulers on fields under strictly monitored MOE issued permits!

At the public meeting held October 1, 2009, concern about the impact on the neighbourhood was responded to by officials stating very clearly, that this facility was only to be used by Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth. The Biodigester’s mandate now seems to include waste from “elsewhere in the province “.

2013, January 26: Report by Georgian Bluffs’ C.A.O. to Biodigester Joint Committee

“The primary reason that the biodigester was constructed was to process the septic waste from residential, commercial, institutional and industrial properties in the Townships of Georgian Bluffs, Chatsworth and elsewhere in the Province but without the expected prohibition of the spreading of raw sewage waste on approved farmland, the quantities of septic waste have been significantly less than those used to develop the business plan for the financial sustainability of the biodigester facility.”

2013, September: Draft Septic Waste Disposal By-Law Timetable and Work plan

With a draft by-law in hand, a timetable and work plan was drawn up by township staff and the consulting engineer. The schedule showed that further testing of the Biodigester needed to be undertaken as the system had not been previously tested for the quantity of waste an enforced by-law would supply, even though it has been operating for almost three years.
A public meeting, posted with 21 days notice would be necessary with this by-law since a new ratepayer fee for service would be necessary to process septic waste at the Biodigester. The dates have passed in the revised timetable. Delays occurred due to the consulting engineer changing firms. Equipment has failed and the system has been down eight weeks as of the first week of November resulting in the inability to receive the sludge to conduct the test.

Additional Notes

Funding and Operating Costs

With costs escalating from the initial $2.5 million to over $4.0 million, funding became a story in itself. At start up, $1.67 million was provided by Federal/Provincial funds through Building Canada Fund and each municipality borrowed $1.2 million.
A proposal in 2013 for a three phase power expansion at a cost of $2,050,000 would bring the project cost up to $6,050,000 and increase Georgian Bluffs’ capital debt to $2,205,000.
Within six months of operation it was clear that more capital was required for on-site storage for the digestate. Cost proposals were considered in the range of $200,000 to $500,000. Problems have continued since then, each one contributing to the need for new/different facilities and equipment.
The Biodigester 2009 design shows an annual operating cost about $212,000 per year. According to the recent Audit Report by BDO, the operating costs for the first year (only 11 months of operation) were more than $450,000. The Audit Report shows operating costs of about $645,000 in 2012.
The Biodigester Joint Management Board (BJB) seems to think that the financial and operating problems will be solved if only the province will provide up to $2.5 million more to “increase the capacity of the system from 100 kilowatts to 340 kilowatts of power generation in order to increase the viability and operational costs of the facility”. (This is a quote from a draft letter to the Minister of the Environment that was tabled at the last BJB Meeting November 1, 2013).

Odour Problems

According to Section 14(1) of the EPA, “… a person shall not discharge a contaminant or cause or permit the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment, if the discharge causes or may cause an adverse effect”. A contaminant is defined as “any solid, liquid, gas, odour, heat, sound, vibration, radiation or combination of any of them resulting directly or indirectly from human activities that causes or may cause an adverse effect”.

Odour has been a constant concern both by the operator and engineer within the project and unfortunately by the neighbouring residents. Certain products, such as abattoir waste were avoided. Chapman’s waste was not only disruptive to the processing but also contributed to odour complaints.

In order to examine the record of complaints, a Freedom of Information request must be submitted to the Ministry of the Environment. The November 1 minutes indicate a report that various odour complaints have been received throughout the month of September 2013, both by the township and MOE. “All necessary documentation is being collected to ensure that all complaints/monitoring is being addressed in a timely manner to rectify this issue as soon as possible.”

One neighbor provided this item. “On the odour portion, I would suggest a reference to how bad it was for the neighbours in 2012. So bad that it drove people indoors on evenings and weekends. It was bad at one point this year and there was concern we would have a repeat but, and I can only speak for our location, it hasn’t been near as bad as last. I have a feeling the prevailing winds may have given us a bit of a break.”

This comment appeared in township correspondence: “And you know what really bothers me? Night after night when my family and neighbours suffered through that awful smell, no one from the township or Joint Committee once called to say we’re sorry”

Safety

While bio-energy power facilities may work in such single source waste operations as dairy and swine operations, there is a record of an extremely high risk associated with repair work in these types of facilities due to the confined spaces and the oxygen deficient atmospheres.
As this facility has been failing prematurely in several areas and requiring work in areas, which are considered, confined spaces, should this not be a serious concern?
Thereby the question was posed at the November 1, 2013 BJB Meeting. As there are no references at the Biodigester Joint Board to policies or procedures, required by law (the Occupational Health and Safety Act and O.Reg. 632/05 – Confined Space regulations) what policies and protection apparatus are in place for haulers in the dumping and cleanup of delivered septic waste? Are haulers not being placed in untenable positions in cleanup?

Conclusion

While the Biodigester experiment may have been undertaken in good faith with the best intentions, it is clear that the project over time has failed to meet any material benchmark, whether development timeline, operational efficacy or financial performance. Will further investment of time and money achieve what has become a very indefinable objective? Perhaps the proper course of action would be to wind down this initiative now.

Friends of Kemble Heritage Hills

Friends of the Hills presented a 600 signature petition to the Transportation Committee

On Monday, August 26, 2013, the Friends of the Hills presented arguments and a petition to the Transportation Committee of the Township of Georgian Bluffs. The event has been described in the online version of the Owen Sound Sun Times:

GEORGIAN BLUFFS – The Heritage Hills roads in Georgian Bluffs won’t be re-opening anytime soon, even with a 600-signature petition and some suggestions on where funding might be found to repair them.The Friends of Kemble Heritage Hills made a presentation to council’s transportation committee Monday, but came away with little more than a suggestion to keep working on it.“I didn’t get a real warm and fuzzy as a response,” said Friends chairwoman Marie Simpson. “Our next step, now that we’ve presented this, we’ll have a meeting and we’ll talk about our options, and how much farther we want to push it.”

For the full original article please go here. At the end of the article readers may vote in an on-line poll to express their opinion about reopening the Hills.

 


This article has been submitted by the Friends of Kemble Heritage Hills. The groupis NOT an IVDAARA committee but an ad-hoc committee and that the IVDAARA board has not had the opportunity to take a position on these issues.

“SAVE THE KEMBLE HERITAGE HILLS”

Attend the Municipality of Georgian Bluffs’ Transportation Committee meeting on Monday August 26th at 3 p.m. at the Municipal Building, locatedjust south of Springmount on the west side of Grey Road 18.

The Friends of Kemble Heritage Hills will be presenting a report to the Transportation Committee on the results of the petition that has been circulated throughout Georgian Bluffs over the past two months; and, provide an update on our research into government or private funding opportunities to help the municipality fund the repair/reopening of the W Hill and Suicide Hill.

Your presence will be a great help to our cause, so please consider attending …. we hope to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/ pages/Friends-of-Kemble- Heritage-Hills/556903487704131

 

Thanks.
Hope youi can come!
Keith D.

Original Article:

A group has been formed, called the Friends of Kemble Heritage Hills, to encourage the Municipality of Georgian Bluffs Council to restore and reopen W Hill (Dodd’s Hill) and Suicide Hill, both of which are presently closed and have been for several years. I’m a member of this group and we are conducting an awareness campaign to determine how many ratepayers want to see these hills reopened.

These hills are Canadiana at its very best. Both 150-year-old hills are a living testimony and symbol to our pioneering spirit in Kemble and North Keppel. The founder of the Kemble Women’s Institute, Clara Gardner, used both these hills in 1897 in her original membership drive when she hooked up her horse and buggy to visit other area women.

Georgian Bluff’s Official Plan states their commitment to “Preserve … significant heritage landscape.”

Two very important aspects of our awareness campaign are: getting as many signatures as we can on a petition of support so we can present that to the Council; and, phone calls and letters. Phone calls to the Mayor or Deputy Mayor to say you want the Hills open again or a letter to one of the local newspapers. We think it would be extremely helpful to have people with a personal history of the area and who are passionate about these Heritage Hills, to submit letters to the Editor of either the Owen Sound SunTimes or the Wiarton Echo. Do you have a personal story about one of these hills and would you be willing to write a short letter to the newspaper? If yes, we’d greatly appreciate it!

Please help us petition council to revamp, reopen and maintain our heritage hills so residents can once again drive them; and, experience history while enjoying beautiful scenery.

The Steering Committee of the Friends of Kemble Heritage Hills is composed of Keith Davidson, Pam Wilson, Bill Wilson, Ken Sly, Marie Simpson and Dianne Carlson.

Petitions are available to sign at the Kemble Post Office, the Big Bay Store, at Keith Davidson’s home – 505129 Grey Road 1, and at Marie Simpson and Ken Sly’s home – 505095 Grey Road 1.

Friends of the Kemble Heritage Hills will also have a booth at Keppel Croft Garden’s Art in the Garden on Saturday July 13th, so if you’re attending please stop by and sign our petition there.

Thank you and please pass the word!

For more information on this issue please read previously published articles on this web site.

IVDAARA starts GR1 campaign


 

Update on the Grey Road 1 Issue

GR1signThe Grey County Transportation Master Plan (TMP) unveiled the revised Road Rationalization Criteria the first week of November. The point system that was usd in the original version has been simplified, so that actual points assigned cannot easily be compared. Although the 29.0 km from Oxenden to the Kemble Women’s Institute Lookout rated 2 points, it fell far short of the 6 points now needed as a county road classification.

The TMP indicated no county support for the Keppel Wiarton Airport. The 3.2 km from Wiarton to Oxenden rated 4 points resulting in the entire 32.2 km to be considered as future download to a lower standard, local (municipal) road. Road resurfacing by the county will still takeplace in 2014. Updates on the TMP will be posted from time to time on IVDAARA’s website.

The Island View Drive and Area Ratepayers’ Association has started a campaign to make residents of Grey Road 1 aware of the coming changes to their road. This will includes signs (as shown above), flyers and petitions.
Continue reading

Life Ring at Big Bay Dock

windandwaves07After IVDAARA Director Judy Belbeck lobbied Georgian Bluffs Council to install a life ring at the Big Bay Dock, the Council’s Recreation Committee at their recent meeting decided to install such a ring in the near future. Murray Hackett, CAO, thanked Judy for bringing this to their attention. Judy had been made aware of the unsafe situation by one of our members.

The above award winning photo of the Big Bay Dock was shot by local potter and photographer Steve Irvine. It was published in the Jan/Feb 2012 edition of Canadian Geographic Magazine, and it’s being featured in one of Canadian Geographic’s calendars for 2014.


IVDAARA to participate in Art in the Garden

Meet your IVDAARA directors at a “booth” at Art in the Garden, the annual arts fair at Keppelcroft Gardens, to be held Saturday July 13, 2013, We will attempt to answer any questions you might have, including about hot topics such as the proposes downloading of Grey Road 1 to the township, water level issues, etc. For listings of this and many other events, see our events page.


Allen Smutylo to be guest speaker at our AGM

memorywaterbk

Local visual artist and writer Allen Smutylo will present the keynote speech at IVDAARA’s Annual General Meeting, on Sauturday July 20, 2013, at 9 am at the Kemble United Church. Allen’s recently published book, “The Memory of Water”, is a collection of ten short stories, all personal memoirs of Allen’s adventurous travels to the High Arctic, Maui and varenasi, and – to stay closer to home – Tobermory in the sixties and Owen Sound’s Sydenham River.

From Allen’s website:

Allen Smutylo has lectured extensively from his experiences throughout the world. His many ventures include the Arctic region (20 sea kayak and backpacking expeditions) and the Himalayas (visiting and traveling with the iconic Tibetan Buddhist nomads, over a 9 year period). The unique point of view given by Smutylo, the artist, the writer and the adventurer provides for an inspiring, informative and captivating presentation. In the Arctic, Smutylo has had numerous first-hand encounters with whales, polar bears, muskoxen, rogue walruses, exploding icebergs and ferocious waters. Central to his interest, includes the celebration of human creativity as evident in the life of the Inuit and pre-Inuit people, who, in the harshest of environments developed and adapted unique technologies to survive. At its core, Smutylo probes a crucial and contemporary issue – that of the modern world’s relationship to a fragile and severe environment and to the human life and wildlife that calls it home.

In the Himalaya, Smutylo was fortunate enough to encounter and become friends with a number of nomad tribes that roam its high elevations. In the region of Ladakh, on the border of Tibet, at 15,000′, these hardy Tibetan Buddhists, with their horses, yaks, sheep and goats have maintained a vibrant culture, essentially unchanged for centuries. Smutylo is one of very few North Americans to have written and portrayed these illusive and fiercely independent people. This presentation captures the taste, smells, sights and textures of a way of life that is hard to believe still exists.


Grey Road 1 to be downloaded to Georgian Bluffs

An update on the Grey Road 1 Download issue has been published as a feature article in the Spring 2013 View Point (IVDAARA newsletter). Comments that we have received from our members can be found at the end of that feature article.

Grey Road 1 to be divided and downloaded in proposed Grey County Transportation Master Plan.

Grey County’s Transportation Master Plan, tabled at the County Council meetings of April 2 and 4, 2013, proposes to download a large number of County roads to the municipalities. In the IVDAARA area this will severely affect the stretch of Grey Road 1 where the majority of our members have their properties, from the Kemble Women’s Institute Lookout to the Wiarton-Keppel Airport, or in fact the entire Island View Drive section of GR1. The full consultant produced plan, which can be downloaded here, uses a point system to rate each road. The report does not tell us how many points the IVD section received, but it clearly shows that it does not meet the criteria to be maintained as County road.


existingGRproposed GR

Existing Grey County Roads (left picture) and Proposed Situation (right picture)

What does this mean for Grey Road 1 / Island View Drive ratepayers?

  • After recently having had to change their postal address, ratepayers will have to go through this annoying process again.
  • The sections of the road that are in bad shape may not be improved after downloading to Georgian Bluffs. This is a safety issue, due to no space for pedestrians and cyclists to move out of the way of vehicular traffic.
  • Tourists will be less likely to discover this scenic road.
  • Although downloading should be property tax neutral (lowered county tax and increased municipal tax), history shows that in practice this is not the case.

Send us an email If you would like to add your comments to this article.

 


 

 

 

 

 

Memory Garden

Memory Garden proposed on a donated addition to Big Bay Cemetery

memorygardenlotAt the Georgian Bluffs Recreation and Property Committee meeting held on March 11, 2013, Jim Halliday and Edith Galloway (as private person, not as IVDAARA president) proposed to convey to the Township a piece of their land of approximately one acre for the purpose of a Memory Garden. The location of the section of land is immediately to the east of the Big Bay
Cemetery (at the intersection of Big Bay Sideroad and Cape Road) and would be accessed
from the cemetery. A photo of the proposed area for the garden is shown to the left. The existing cemetery does not function as a burial plot anymore, but it exhibits considerable history re the community of Big Bay. As an adjunct to that site, this memory garden idea would enable Big Bay to continue to remember its people. The garden would involve merely a monument, or wall, or large stone, to display plaques in memory of individuals who wish to have one for themselves or family members in the area. Edith proposed to the committee
that there would be no cost to the Township. Continue reading

Grey Sauble Conservation Project

Grey Sauble Conservation has been selected to participate in the Shell’s Fuelling Change Program. This program will provide grants for projects that gain the most votes from participants such as our IVDAARA members. Please support the Project “Digital Mapping for Watershed Conservation” at Grey Sauble Conservation! From now until January 4th you can go to http://www.fuellingchange.comclick the Redeem Codes button and enter the code io9-Eob89 in the code box to get 100 free votes. You can then scroll to theproject in the $25 000 category and use the votes towards the Grey Sauble project. Then until April 30th you can obtain additional votes by filling up at Shell stations and using the code provided on Shell sales slips.


 

A Tribute to Fred Gilbert

FredG240Fred Gilbert passed away June 24, 2012 in his 89th year. Fred was born in Wiarton and operated Gilbert’s Shoes with his wife Jean. In 1975, he was one of the five founding members of Island View Drive and Area Ratepayers’ Association. Fred spent many active years in retirement. From his Island View Drive home he looked out over the blue waters of Colpoy’s Bay. This photo of July 13,1996 shows Fred enjoying himself at the IVDAARA picnic.